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Still a Buster, But He’s Our Buster: Paul Walker Tribute

On Saturday afternoon, November 30, 2013, news surfaced that most, myself included, hoped was a cruel internet hoax; it turned out to be a heartbreaking reality. The entertainment industry, automotive industry and humanitarian organizations — the whole world, really — lost a major icon in Paul Walker as well as his close friend and successful race car driver, Roger Rodas.

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Both men were prominent figures in the automotive world as well as charity organizations. Rodas first met Walker on the race track, where their friendship grew through a common love of cars. Before long, Rodas and Walker collaborated in creating Always Evolving race shop and Walker's charity organization, Reach Out Worldwide (ROWW). The day of the accident, Rodas and Walker were leaving a Winter Toy Drive hosted at Always Evolving, put on in conjunction with Purist Group, Motor Mavens and ROWW. It was Rodas' red Porsche Carrera GT (the same model we recently featured here on Driving Line) that the pair drove off in — ending in the fatal single-car crash.

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Walker was a father, marine biologist, humanitarian, surfer and an honest to goodness down-to-earth, good guy. Of course, his fame comes from starring in the now billion-dollar franchise known as “Fast & Furious” as Brian O’Conner. Never in this generation has a single movie been so influential to the whole car scene movement. The movies helped to spawn the current automotive aftermarket tuner trend and has since become a cult classic with many quotable one-liners.

“I think other people not in the scene might have been exposed to the whole aftermarket world from 'The Fast and The Furious,' so we should all be thankful that he was a big influence to pushing our world beyond just the hardcore car kids," said Lisa Chen, editor-in-chief for Scion Canada Magazine, a brand closely associated with the tuner segment.

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The car scene was alive, but fledgling among young people at the time "The Fast and the Furious" was released. Walker’s presence, not only on-screen but off, was a significant influence for the car scene gaining recognition, attracting people’s interest and become socially acceptable. If you haven't seen the movies, Brian O’Conner is a very relatable character, a new guy with a thirst for everything cars and looking for respect — sounds like just about every car person I know.

Off the screen, Paul Walker was actually a true automotive enthusiast. He didn't just play the part of a gearhead; he was one in real life. As his knowledge of cars grew, so did the franchise. During the release of the franchise's fourth installment in 2009, Driving Line's Jonathan Wong commented on the influence Walker had on the franchise in Hollywood, keeping it true to authentic tuner styles: “Can you believe it was Paul Walker’s idea to leave the cars more graphic-less this time? Not bad."

One of the many reasons that Paul Walker will be missed is that he was one of us. I was told to check out SuperStreet’s October 2001 issue, where they had a short interview with him. It was simple, not a Hollywood PR safe response. Instead, it was a genuine response that expressed his excitement, one that I could imagine any of my own friends saying. He was a humble guy that many admired and aspired to be like.

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When the first movie came out — "The Fast and the Furious" — I was a month shy of turning 13. I thought cars in general were “cool” but hadn't yet caught the passion to be a tuner. After watching Brian rebuild a junkyard Supra, I started looking into parts for what would soon be my first car. I was driving by the second movie and remember driving to the theater to watch it with some friends; I even still have the movie stub... in fact, it's the first movie stub that I ever kept.

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No matter how outlandish some of the concepts in the movies were, I don’t think car culture would be anywhere as prominent now without them and Walker’s role in them; I for sure might not be as engulfed in the scene had it not been for him. Many people share my feelings:

“Even before I got my license, Brian O’Conner set the scene for what we teenagers saw was ‘cool’ to what we now call ‘ricers.’ Without F&F, I would have never had the itch to start modifying. From the ‘ricer’ days to years after and from this day on, it has only been a progression for better; from quality parts, to form and function. For that I am thankful and wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren't for Paul Walker and the entire F&F series. Thank you for your impact on me and the car culture as a whole. ’Race in Paradise’ brother #FastFamily” — Meng Tea, FRS86 Co-founder

Other than helping his brother win this year's Scion Tuner Challenge, Meng has built a number of cars, these two being examples, that would have never been if not for Paul Walker.

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I want to thank everyone — friends, fans, fellow enthusiasts — who helped me put this piece together by sharing their personal experiences and photos. This tribute is just a small thing I could do to remember Paul Walker. To really do something in his honor, I strongly urge everyone to visit ROWW.org and make a donation to help Paul Walker’s legacy live on through his charity. In the end, Paul/Brian did it all. He won, he took the cash and he took the respect.

Rest in Peace, Paul Walker.

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